International Conference Devoted to Balkans Takes Place in Sofia

An international conference titled “The Balkans – of Peace, Security, Cooperation and Partnership” is taking place in Sofia on Thursday under the auspices of Bulgaria’s President Rumen Radev. The event is organized by the Strategic Institute for National Policies and Ideas, the Forum for Balkan Transport and Infrastructure, and the National Association for International Relations.

At the beginning of the conference, Bulgarian Vice President Iliana Iotova said that the Balkan countries have a shared history, which can only unite them, not divide them. “The conversation in the 21st century should not be about the past. We are destined to coexist now by our shared fate, striving to ensure peace and prosperity for ourselves and our children. How do we make our children stay here, develop their talents and skills, stay in their homeland, and not flee to more developed countries to seek their future there? What should we do for our common development? How do we make our projects а reality?” Iotova said. In her words, this is what the conversation in 2023 should be about instead of “appropriating history, fighting over our heroes, stifling free expression of ethnicity; above all, we should respect human rights.” In her view, people talk about human rights as “a policy of luxury”. Iotova said, “It is up to us to halt this dangerous and worrying trend and to pay attention to people’s problems instead of old documents.”

Iotova noted that the future of the Western Balkans is an integral theme of Thursday’s conference, especially in the context of Russia’s war in Ukraine and its consequences. “There cannot be a secure and stable Europe without its enlargement in the direction of the Western Balkans,” she said.

In Iotova’s words, the Balkans have not been a peaceful place for centuries, and even today they are caught up in different geopolitical interests.